Monday Picks ~ 3-27-2017

This is some stuff I found helpful, challenging, interesting, or amusing today that I think may enrich your day as well...

Urgent Church: Nine Changes We Must Make Or Die
Thom Rainer
I know. We don’t compromise doctrine. I know. We must never say we will change God’s Word.

But many of our congregations must change. They must change or they will die.

I call these churches “the urgent church.” Time is of the essence. If changes do not happen soon, very soon, these churches will die. The pace of congregational death is accelerating.

What, then, are some of the key changes churches must make? Allow me to give you a fair warning. None of them are easy. Indeed, they are only possible in God’s power. Here are nine of them…


Peter’s Message to Politically Panicked Christians: Talk About Something ElseTrevin Wax
Peter’s Message to Politically Panicked Christians: Talk About Something ElsePeter doesn’t say, “The war is on! Defend yourselves from the world!”

Instead he says, “Abstain from the desires of the flesh that are waging war on your soul.” In other words, “I’m less concerned about what unbelievers will do to your body than I am what sin will do to your soul.” To update that message for panicked Christians in the 21st century: “I’m less concerned about what the government may do with your church’s tax-exempt status than what compromise and complacency will do to your congregation.”


Redefining IntimacyEd Shaw
evening-walk-1959986_1280The world in which we live cannot cope with intimate relationships that aren’t sexual—it makes no sense; it’s just not possible. So I’ve had to pull back from deepening friendships with both men and women out of fear that they are being seen as inappropriate. None of them were—but the supposed impossibility of non-sexual intimacy meant we felt under pressure to close them down. That’s been very hard at times.


Phonetically Defined…
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Wrong Hands

Luke 12:35-40

The idea of these little devotionals is simple. I want to approach scripture with the understanding that God is speaking. I’m reading through the Bible and listening for God to ask me questions. I expect these questions to be fairly open-ended and plan to carry them in my mind throughout the day. I’ll share these questions with you in the hope that you find them challenging and helpful.

Luke 12:35-40
35 “Stay dressed for action[a] and keep your lamps burning, 36 and be like men who are waiting for their master to come home from the wedding feast, so that they may open the door to him at once when he comes and knocks. 37 Blessed are those servants[b] whom the master finds awake when he comes. Truly, I say to you, he will dress himself for service and have them recline at table, and he will come and serve them. 38 If he comes in the second watch, or in the third, and finds them awake, blessed are those servants! 39 But know this, that if the master of the house had known at what hour the thief was coming, he[c] would not have left his house to be broken into. 40 You also must be ready, for the Son of Man is coming at an hour you do not expect.”

From this passage I hear God asking me:
Are you awake?
Do you really think Jesus would serve you while you recline? (v. 37)
How would you feel about that?
Is that how you picture Jesus’ return?
How do you picture it?
Do you picture it?
Do you expect it?
Today?


Is God asking you anything more, or anything different?
I’d love to hear from you in the comments below.


Weekend Picks ~ 3-24-2017

This is some stuff I found helpful, challenging, interesting, or amusing today that I think may enrich your day as well...

Keep the main thing the main thing…

Production or Virtue?Bryan Elliff
productivityYes, there is no doubt that we need to be setting and achieving godly goals. And there certainly are times when we need to examine our productivity. However, should we act as if our production were God’s chief concern? I think not. What he cares about far more is virtue.

By virtue I mean the kind of person we are, our character, the carefully-cultivated dispositions of our heart that manifest themselves in our everyday actions and reactions. It is not always what you accomplish that matters, but how you do it, why you do it, and ultimately who you are even when you can’t do it.


Are Christians in the USA Persecuted?Scot McKnight
Screen Shot 2017-03-18 at 10.31.28 AMFor today I want to trot out what I read recently in Mary Eberstadt’s little book It’s Dangerous to Believe: Religious Freedom and Its Enemies.

My contention is that we should distinguish between breakdowns of genuine freedom of speech and persecution of Christians, we should recognize that some in the latter think their freedoms are restricted in a way that is not only un-American but hostile to faith, and it would be good if we could at least have a reasonable conversation about these distinctions and the reality of the latter. To call this alarmism simply doesn’t help and it’s yet another good time for us all to read some Rich Mouw on civility, beginning right here: Uncommon Decency: Christian Civility in an Uncommon World.

Here is some stuff from Mary Eberstadt’s It’s Dangerous to Believe


9 Things That Are Still Great About Facebook
Cheryl Magness
9 Things That Are Still Great About FacebookFacebook has had a bad year. From the nastiness of the 2016 presidential campaign, to the increasing difficulty of sorting real news from fake, to Facebook’s practice of filtering and controlling what you see in your news feed, Facebook has become the social media site everyone loves to hate.

I regularly see posts from friends who say they are looking to cut back their Facebook use and spend more time on real life. It’s a good goal. It is far too easy to give social media too much time. There is convincing research suggesting we are becoming physically addicted to our devices. So taking steps to limit and manage the way we use social media is smart.

Yet with all of its problems, Facebook still has a lot going for it, and I for one am not willing to throw the baby out with the bathwater. Here are some of the ways Facebook continues to be a positive presence in the lives of many…


I deeply love and respect every senior pastor I’ve had the privilege of working with, but I have experienced a few of these in 35 years of being a church staffer…

Eight Things Senior Pastors Do that Demotivate Staff PastorsMarty Duren
demotivation sadness frustrationI have been both a staff pastor and a lead/senior pastor; I have both given and received, been the victim and the victimizer. Being honest, I’ve probably been the offender more than the offended.

It is imperative when in the lead role to lead the rest of the staff well. Being human, and sometimes lacking a full palette of leadership skills, results in a staff who is less-than-enthusiastic about coming to work, carrying out the vision, or supporting the lead pastor. They’ve been demotivated. From years of being on staffs, leading pastors, talking with senior pastors, and talking to staff pastors, here are a few ways I’ve seen a lead pastor can demotivate the staff pastors…


How can you not love this guy?

How Steven Curtis Chapman Fought Through the Tears to Play ‘Cinderella’ Again
Steve Curtis ChapmanIn 2008, Maria, the adopted daughter of Christian musician Steven Curtis Chapman, was accidentally struck by a car driven by her brother and killed. She was the inspiration behind Chapman’s hit song “Cinderella.”

Before his first concert after her death, Chapman had said he would never play “Cinderella” again, but something changed that night with his sons in the band.

In this excerpt from his book Between Heaven and the Real World, Chapman describes what happened next…


Clickbait costume drama…
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Wrong Hands – Click image for a larger view.

Luke 12:22-34

The idea of these little devotionals is simple. I want to approach scripture with the understanding that God is speaking. I’m reading through the Bible and listening for God to ask me questions. I expect these questions to be fairly open-ended and plan to carry them in my mind throughout the day. I’ll share these questions with you in the hope that you find them challenging and helpful.

Luke 12:22-34
22 And he said to his disciples, “Therefore I tell you, do not be anxious about your life, what you will eat, nor about your body, what you will put on. 23 For life is more than food, and the body more than clothing. 24 Consider the ravens: they neither sow nor reap, they have neither storehouse nor barn, and yet God feeds them. Of how much more value are you than the birds! 25 And which of you by being anxious can add a single hour to his span of life?[c] 26 If then you are not able to do as small a thing as that, why are you anxious about the rest? 27 Consider the lilies, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin,[d] yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. 28 But if God so clothes the grass, which is alive in the field today, and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, how much more will he clothe you, O you of little faith! 29 And do not seek what you are to eat and what you are to drink, nor be worried. 30 For all the nations of the world seek after these things, and your Father knows that you need them. 31 Instead, seek his[e] kingdom, and these things will be added to you.

32 “Fear not, little flock, for it is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom. 33 Sell your possessions, and give to the needy. Provide yourselves with moneybags that do not grow old, with a treasure in the heavens that does not fail, where no thief approaches and no moth destroys. 34 For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.

From this passage I hear God asking me:
Do you find this passage comforting or challenging?
Where is your treasure?
Is it possible that your answer to my first question reveals the answer to my second?
Do you trust me, or not?


Is God asking you anything more, or anything different?
I’d love to hear from you in the comments below.


Thursday Picks ~ 3-23-2017

This is some stuff I found helpful, challenging, interesting, or amusing today that I think may enrich your day as well...

I’ll be following this series. Could be interesting…

The Diffusion and Influence of Contemporary WorshipMichael Lee
The Diffusion and Influence of Contemporary WorshipIn part one of this short series exploring research related to the diffusion and influence of the contemporary worship, I will point to some recent findings as it relates to current congregational practices and correlations to congregational growth…

Besides the rapid increase in the adoption of contemporary worship forms over the past 15 years, which will probably not come as a surprise to anyone reading this, more interesting are the conclusions offered in numerous iterations of the FACT studies that the adoption of contemporary worship is correlated to congregational growth and vitality. Here are some excerpts from several studies…


The always challenging and insightful Carey Nieuwhof…

7 Things Christians Should Give Up To Reach Unchurched PeopleCarey Nieuwhofgive up
So many church leaders (staff and volunteer) struggle to lead beyond the preferences of the church members. And as soon as they try, they get inundated with complaints and angry emails. Too many Christians feel like it’s their right to have a church that caters exactly to their tastes and whims, and millions are paying the price for that (including unchurched people).

Catering to the preferences of members is a terrible idea for three reasons.

First, it’s killing the church…

Second, it’s an unwinnable game…

Finally, and most importantly, it’s just wrong…

When your preferences keep unchurched people from the promise of Christ, it’s time to change your preferences.

Here are 7 things Christians should give up to reach unchurched people…


Moms and dads change the world…

Maybe We’re Raising World-ChangersMelissa Edgington
…maybe for now I just need to keep plugging away at the little things God has entrusted me with. This is where I learn to be more like Him. This is where He shows me how real love operates. This is where He demonstrates that His glory is all that matters. And, who knows? Maybe one day He will do something big through me.

Or maybe He already is, I thought, as I watched my firstborn’s eyes dance at the idea of changing the world.


Here’s a little gem that made me smile this morning…
Paul Schaffer and Bill Murray: Happy Street


 

Spring break reality…
https://safr.kingfeatures.com/idn/cnfeed/zone/js/content.php?file=aHR0cDovL3NhZnIua2luZ2ZlYXR1cmVzLmNvbS9aaXRzLzIwMTcvMDMvWml0cy4yMDE3MDMyMV85MDAuZ2lm
Zits – Click image for a larger view.

Luke 12:13-21

The idea of these little devotionals is simple. I want to approach scripture with the understanding that God is speaking. I’m reading through the Bible and listening for God to ask me questions. I expect these questions to be fairly open-ended and plan to carry them in my mind throughout the day. I’ll share these questions with you in the hope that you find them challenging and helpful.

Luke 12:13-21
13 Someone in the crowd said to him, “Teacher, tell my brother to divide the inheritance with me.” 14 But he said to him, “Man, who made me a judge or arbitrator over you?” 15 And he said to them, “Take care, and be on your guard against all covetousness, for one’s life does not consist in the abundance of his possessions.” 16 And he told them a parable, saying, “The land of a rich man produced plentifully, 17 and he thought to himself, ‘What shall I do, for I have nowhere to store my crops?’ 18 And he said, ‘I will do this: I will tear down my barns and build larger ones, and there I will store all my grain and my goods. 19 And I will say to my soul, “Soul, you have ample goods laid up for many years; relax, eat, drink, be merry.”’ 20 But God said to him, ‘Fool! This night your soul is required of you, and the things you have prepared, whose will they be?’ 21 So is the one who lays up treasure for himself and is not rich toward God.”

From this passage I hear God asking me:
Do you “lay up treasure for yourself”? (vs. 21)
Let me put it this way:
If you were taken to heaven today, would you be disappointed about what you had to leave behind?
Which is more important to you: your stuff, your plans, and your dreams; or my stuff, my plans and my dreams?
If a person looked at your cash flow and your schedule, would they come up with the same answer?
Did you think this was about responsible financial planning?


Is God asking you anything more, or anything different?
I’d love to hear from you in the comments below.


Luke 12:8-12

The idea of these little devotionals is simple. I want to approach scripture with the understanding that God is speaking. I’m reading through the Bible and listening for God to ask me questions. I expect these questions to be fairly open-ended and plan to carry them in my mind throughout the day. I’ll share these questions with you in the hope that you find them challenging and helpful.

Luke 12:8-12
“And I tell you, everyone who acknowledges me before men, the Son of Man also will acknowledge before the angels of God, but the one who denies me before men will be denied before the angels of God. 10 And everyone who speaks a word against the Son of Man will be forgiven, but the one who blasphemes against the Holy Spirit will not be forgiven. 11 And when they bring you before the synagogues and the rulers and the authorities, do not be anxious about how you should defend yourself or what you should say, 12 for the Holy Spirit will teach you in that very hour what you ought to say.”

From this passage I hear God asking me:
Why is it so hard to talk about me with unbelievers?
What are you afraid of? (I asked you that yesterday, didn’t I?)
Are you afraid of what they’ll think about you? (see yesterday)
But it’s not really about you, is it?
Don’t worry. I’ve got you. (vs. 11,12)


Is God asking you anything more, or anything different?
I’d love to hear from you in the comments below.


Tuesday Picks ~ 3-21-2017

This is some stuff I found helpful, challenging, interesting, or amusing today that I think may enrich your day as well...

You are not unknown to God…

To the Unknown PastorJordan Standridge
shepherd-carrying-sheep1It is said that there are creatures in the depths of the oceans that remain undiscovered to this day. Astronomers keep finding new stars and new planets each and every year that, for millennia, have been seen only by God.  Every undiscovered animal, plant, and planet brings glory to God by the mere fact that He sees them, and He gets glory from their beauty even if He is the only one who knows that they exist.

In much the same way… I believe that God has men whom He has specifically placed around the world that bring Him glory every single Sunday, and no one other than their congregations know anything about them…

While we all want to complain about the state of the Church… I think it’s helpful to remember… that there are many men around the country and around the world who faithfully shepherd their congregations, joyfully counsel them, diligently prepare and spend as many hours preparing for sermons that they will preach to a couple dozen people as others do to thousands, and please their Savior through their joyful attitude throughout.


Some good (and hard) advice here for preachers…

Preaching and PersonalityGary Millar
http://www.azquotes.com/picture-quotes/quote-preaching-is-truth-through-personality-phillips-brooks-120-45-39.jpgSome people are more interesting to listen to than others. I’m sorry, but it’s true, and it’s now out there. Some people make me sit on the edge of my seat, and others have the gift of encouraging me to slide back as far as I can go. So what makes the difference? What makes a talk engaging rather than sleep-inducing? Some people have written books about this, but even the very best of these leave something out. Yes, we can make sure that our language is arresting, and our structure clear, and our application rich and our biblical theology compelling—but there is another factor which is slightly harder to address. It’s the personality factor…

…They say that imitation is the highest form of flattery, and there’s something in that. But it’s also deeply inauthentic. In contrast, there is real freedom in accepting that you are who you are, and learning to speak in your own voice. Although I would say though that this is more easily said than done.


Confessing the Sin of PlatformingJ.A. Medders
My heart hatched plans to artificially build a platform, increase my influence, and widen my readership. The blueprints for the tower were coming together. And then, conviction came right on time. Freedom rang too. God exposed the slimy residue of my heart. It wasn’t fun. It was quite embarrassing to admit—to tell my wife, my elders, and my agent—and now you. A blessed embarrassment.

I believed the lie I could make a name for myself for the sake of Christ. Baloney. That’s not how the Kingdom works. Sure, it might be how some Christian publishers work, but it’s not the way of Christ.


The Prodigal’s BrotherJennifer Johnson
But for me, this story is also an uncomfortable reminder that I don’t get to control God. If I’m only serving my Father as a way to get blessings and favor from him, my behavior actually lacks integrity. And if he is truly my Father, he is free to parent me and bless me however he sees fit, and what he does for others – even if I’ve been “better” than they are – is none of my concern.


Restraint…
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Bizarro